Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ooh! Shiny!

Two weeks ago I painted the living room. The majority of things are back where they're supposed to be, but the light switchplate was still in a bag on the kitchen table. The switch is on a wall that can't be seen from the hall or family room, and we rarely use the room, so I figured I'd get around to putting it back on it when I had a chance.

Before:  Dirty Yucky.
Today is housecleaning catch-up day, so the project got added to my list of things to do. Why did it take so long to get to it? I thought the switchplate needed to be replaced. Several years ago I bought brass light switch covers for the living room and hall at an import store. They were beautiful, but soon started showing signs of tarnish and spots that looked like rust.

Assuming the switchplate was cheap brass plated, I thought things were hopeless and I'd have to buy new ones. This morning, though I decided to see if I could do anything to make it look acceptable. The first step was to figure out if I was working with solid brass or brass plated steel. The easiest way to check a piece is to put a magnet on it. If the magnet sticks, it's brass plated steel. If the magnet falls, the piece is solid brass. I was amazed to find out that my plate solid, and I moved on to researching cleaning methods. Since it seemed like it would be worth my time, I removed the cover in the hall and worked on it, too.

After: It's so shiny I can see my reflection!
There are a lot of homemade recipes for brass cleaners, but I decided to use salt and vinegar. The ingredients are cheap, and I had everything in the house. I started by soaking the plates in a bowl of vinegar, then combined equal parts salt, white flour, and vinegar to form a paste. With my fingers, I applied the paste and let it sit for thirty minutes, rinsed them thoroughly, then dried them. There were a couple of small spot that didn't come off, but the majority of the tarnish was gone; the covers were bright and shiny. To prevent more tarnish, I used a bit of car wax. and was pleasantly surprised to remove even more dirt.

I rehung both covers, then admired the way the looked on the walls. I also admired the extra half square foot of my kitchen table that's now empty.


  1. I have some things that could use a polishing. I'll have to try your salt and vinegar method!

  2. Thanks for the tip, does it work on men? lol